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VOL. 7 | NO. 27 | Saturday, June 28, 2014

Daily Digest

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California Accuses FedEx of Waste Violations

State officials are accusing FedEx of more than 1,500 hazardous waste violations since 2008.

In a complaint filed in Sacramento County court on Thursday, California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control said FedEx Ground Package System Inc. transported hazardous waste packages through hubs without authorization and failed to properly handle broken and leaking packages containing hazardous materials such as acids and batteries.

The agency also alleges that FedEx unlawfully received and stored hazardous waste at its three California hubs in Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Paul Kewin, of the Department of Toxic Substances, said the violations undermine the state’s ability to protect Californians.

Each violation carries a penalty of up to $25,000.

FedEx spokeswoman Katie Wassmer denied the claims, saying FedEx follows local, state and federal reporting requirements.

Jerry's Sno Cones Could Add Cordova Location

Memphis institution Jerry’s Sno Cones could be adding a second location in Cordova.

A company operating as Ross Enterprises LLC purchased a nearly 1-acre vacant lot with an address listed as 0 Bonnie Lane, just off Germantown Parkway in Cordova, in 2013 for $120,000. Records from the Shelby County Assessor of Property’s office list the owner of the property as Jerry’s owner David Acklin.

Acklin told television station Local 24 that the new location would be behind the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant at 1636 N. Germantown Parkway, a description that matches the 0 Bonnie Lane address.

The original Jerry’s Sno Cones, 1657 Wells Station Road, has been a Memphis summer staple for decades, with long lines of customers seeking a refreshing frozen treat regularly snaking around the property.

Orgill Honored By Commerce Secretary

Memphis-based Orgill, Inc. has been honored with a 2014 “E” Award for Export excellence by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

Orgill was among 47 companies this year to receive the award, which is given to companies demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over the course of several years. President John F. Kennedy created the President’s “E” Award in 1961 to recognize people, firms and organizations that contribute to expanding U.S. exports.

Orgill is the world’s largest independently owned hardlines distributor, providing retailers in the United States, Canada and more than 60 countries with access to more than 75,000 products and industry-leading retail services.

Methodist Le Bonheur Honored for Patient Care

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has been recognized by the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care as a Better Together exemplar hospital for excellence in engaging patients and families as partners in patients’ care.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare was among 12 hospitals named as exemplars, or models, for IPFCC’s just launched Better Together campaign. The campaign aims to educate hospitals about the need to change restrictive visiting policies so that families are no longer treated as “visitors” but seen as essential members of the health care team.

Rather than interfering, studies and hospitals’ experience show that unlimited access to family and loved ones reduces patient complications and stress and improves the patient’s experience of care in the hospital. The Joint Commission, the accrediting body for health systems, recommends that hospitals accommodate access to a patient’s support person to encourage safer care.

The exemplar hospitals were selected based on certain criteria, including their commitment to welcoming patients’ families and loved ones 24 hours a day and making system-wide changes to accommodate family presence and participation.

Unemployment Aid Applications Dip

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week, the latest evidence that a sharp economic slowdown earlier this year hasn’t caused employers to cut jobs.

Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 2,000 to 314,000.

The average has fallen 9 percent since the beginning of this year. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the declines indicate that companies are cutting fewer jobs.

The figures come a day after the government said the economy shrank at a 2.9 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, the worst reading since early 2009, when the U.S. was mired in the depths of the recession.

The number of people actually receiving benefits inched up by 12,000 to 2.57 million. But the small increase comes after the level fell to a six-year low in the previous week.

When businesses are confident enough to keep staff, they are also likely to hire more people.

The low level of applications indicates employers haven’t been rattled by the first quarter’s dismal showing, which many economists have partly blamed on bad weather. If businesses feared the economy was tumbling into a recession, they would likely ramp up layoffs.

Instead, they are hiring at a healthy pace. Employers added 217,000 jobs in May, the fourth straight month of gains above 200,000. That’s the first such stretch since 1999. The unemployment rate remained 6.3 percent in May, the lowest in more than five years.

30-Year Mortgage Rate Falls to 4.14 Percent

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages declined this week, hovering near historically low levels.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year loan eased to 4.14 percent from 4.17 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage fell to 3.22 percent from 3.30 percent.

Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in mid-2013 have made homes less affordable for would-be buyers. At the same time, a limited supply of homes is available to buy. Sales of new homes are running about half the rate of a healthy housing market.

Home prices rose in April from a year ago at the slowest pace in 13 months, reflecting the recent drop-off in sales, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday.

Mortgage rates are about a quarter of a percentage point higher than they were at the same time last year. The increase in rates over the past year or so was driven in part by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low. Indeed, the Fed has announced five declines in its monthly bond purchases since December because the economy appears to be steadily healing. But the Fed has no plans to raise its benchmark short-term rate from record lows.

After the central bank ended a two-day policy meeting last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen sent the message that the economy still isn’t healthy enough to grow at a consistently strong pace without the Fed’s help. Yellen said that despite a steadily improving job market and signs of creeping inflation, the Fed sees no need to raise short-term interest rates from record lows anytime soon.

Wunderlich Expands, Opens New Office

Wunderlich Securities Inc. has expanded into consumer and business services investment banking.

The Memphis-based company has hired Joe Schimmelpfennig, Jeff Ng and Eric Eindahl as managing directors to lead the group and to open a new Orange County, Calif., office. The consumer and business services investment banking team is based in Newport Beach, Calif., and is in the process of supplementing its team with investment banking, equity research and institutional sales and trading professionals.

Wunderlich CEO Gary Wunderlich said the consumer and business services sectors are among the firm’s top priorities as it continues to build its institutional and investment banking capabilities.

U of M Athletics Publications Honored

Four University of Memphis publications designed by Brandon Kolditz, assistant director of athletics communications, received “Best Cover in the Nation” recognition by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The publications were judged as part of the organization’s annual publications contest.

Only Notre Dame, which won six awards, had more Best in the Nation honors than the University of Memphis.

The U of M’s 2013-2014 publications were produced with a common theme of “We Are Memphis” as the school played its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

Redbirds Back Home For Weekend Series

The Memphis Redbirds open up a four-game weekend series Thursday, June 26, at AutoZone Park against the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

The homestand includes the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2013 National League Championship Series replica ring giveaway on Friday night for the first 3,000 fans. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday, and first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. Also on Friday, Cardinals pitcher and former Redbird Joe Kelly is scheduled to make a rehab start as he works his way back from a hamstring injury.

Saturday night’s 6:05 game (gates open at 5 p.m.) is an opportunity for fans to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Fans can use the promotional code STJUDE when purchasing tickets online to donate $5 back to St. Jude. Fireworks will follow the game.

On Sunday, select Redbirds will sign autographs in the plaza from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. before the 6:05 p.m. game start. After the game, kids 12 and younger can run the bases. The first 3,000 kids under 48 inches tall will receive a complimentary ticket to Six Flags St. Louis. Looney Tunes characters will also be at the ballpark Sunday to greet fans.

For more information, visit memphisredbirds.com or call 722-0299.

Carson: Joe Brown Not ‘Average Candidate’

The chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party said Wednesday, June 25, that he is concerned by questions from Democrats about the campaign of Joe Brown as the Democratic nominee for district attorney general in the August county elections.

In a written statement to local Democrats, Bryan Carson said some have questioned whether Brown, a retired Criminal Court judge, is campaigning.

“Judge Joe Brown is a Democratic nominee and should be supported by all,” Carson said in the statement. “As far as his campaign methods, you have to realize he is not your average candidate.”

Carson cited Brown’s history as a prosecutor, defense attorney and judge. Brown is challenging Republican incumbent Amy Weirich in the county general elections.

Earlier this week, Brown opened his campaign headquarters at Third Street and Court Avenue.

Brown has said before that he was “drafted” by party leaders to challenge Weirich and that he also sees himself as attempting to unite Democrats and boost turnout for the entire party slate in the county races four years after Republicans took every countywide office in the same election cycle.

Data Providers Receive High Marks at Airport

T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon received high marks for the performance of their data networks at Memphis International Airport, according to a recent national survey.

T-Mobile received a score of 97.5, AT&T recorded a score of 97.3, and Verizon received a score of 96.9 in RootMetrics AirportRootScore survey of data performance. AT&T won the award during two previous survey visits.

RootMetrics tests the reliability and speed for file uploads and downloads, downloading email, and loading data files that represent typical Web pages and apps. The higher the RootScore, the better the performance is considered to be.

Durable Goods Orders Drop 1 Percent in May

Orders for U.S. durable goods tumbled 1 percent in May as demand for military equipment fell sharply. But excluding defense-related goods, orders actually rose, and orders in a key category that signals business investment also increased.

The gains outside of military goods suggest business spending is picking up, which could give the economy a much-needed boost.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that orders, excluding defense, rose 0.6 percent in May, after falling 0.8 percent in April. Orders for core capital goods, which reflect business investment, increased 0.7 percent, after a 1.1 percent drop.

Demand for military goods is highly volatile and had surged in April, so the sharp drop in May wasn’t a surprise and was dismissed by many economists.

“Monthly defense orders are so regularly irregular that they do not matter, given their tendency to promptly reverse,” said Michael Montgomery, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

Factories reported higher demand for steel and other metals, computers, and autos. Durable goods are items expected to last at least three years.

Baptist Opening Dementia Center

Baptist Memorial Health Care, with help from the Baptist Foundation and the Parker family donation, is opening a free resource center for patients and caregivers dealing with dementia or other memory-related issues.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place Thursday, June 26, at 1:30 p.m. at 400 Market Blvd., suite 111, in Collierville.

The Baptist Memory Care Center will assist with a free screening for memory problems and will connect people with community resources and support. Services are provided by appointment, and no referral is needed.

Center team members will assist in identifying available resources such as home care, specialty physicians services, community events, spiritual and emotional guidance, and long-term care facilities, among other things.

In addition to resource networking, the staff will offer support through caregiving classes, community outreach services, support groups, advance-care planning and more.

Lewellen Honored As City Manager of Year

Collierville town administrator James Lewellen has been named the 2014 City Manager of the Year by the Tennessee City Management Association.

The award was given Tuesday, June 24, at the association’s annual conference in Chattanooga.

Lewellen has been town administrator since 1995.

Earlier this year, Lewellen was the recipient of the 2014 Dunavant Public Servant Award given by the Rotary Club of Memphis East and sponsored by The Daily News and the University of Memphis.

Concert Film Series Kicks Off July 25

Indie Memphis will launch the fourth season of its free summer Concert Film Series at the Levitt Shell next month.

The series begins July 25 with a film about the historic 1958 Newport jazz festival and closes with the documentary “Meanwhile in Memphis.” Other films include performances by Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Sigur Ros and Isaac Hayes, among others.

Admission is free to each film and starts at dusk, and food and beverages will be available to purchase. The 2014 series is presented by Orion Federal Credit Union and made possible in part through grants provided by ArtsMemphis.

The 17th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival will be held Oct. 30 through Nov. 2, and it’s again presented by Duncan-Williams Inc.

UCAN Teen Talk To Be Held Saturday

Peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem and how to say no to drugs will all be topics in UCAN of Memphis’ quarterly Teen Talk Saturday, June 28, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The free event will be held at the House of Mtenzi, 1298 Madison Ave. Refreshments will be served.

Panelists will include Brandy Flynn of Brandy J. Flynn Counseling and Consulting Services; elder Jessie Jennings, author of “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!” and UCAN President Leshundra Robinson.

For more information, visit ucanofmemphis.org or call 262-8642.

Haslam Favors Domestic ‘Cooling Off’ Period

A high-profile domestic violence case in Nashville has led to talk of more restrictions for defendants in such cases.

The Tennessean reports Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said on Monday that he would support making a 12-hour “cooling off” period mandatory after someone has been arrested on a domestic violence charge.

“I think that makes sense,” Haslam said. “I’m far from an expert on that, but from what I understand, it just feels like that is a common sense law.”

The statement comes in the midst of a controversy over a Nashville case involving a prominent contractor who was released from jail a few hours after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Police say he assaulted his girlfriend a second time shortly after being released.

Lawmakers in Middle Tennessee have said they plan to introduce a bill next year that would require people arrested on domestic violence charges to remain incarcerated for at least 12 hours. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in January.

The 12-hour period is meant to help victims stay safe while making any necessary arrangements, such as packing or moving. While Tennessee law suggests such a cooling off period, it doesn’t mandate it and judges and waive it if they don’t think it’s necessary.

Critics say not abiding by the recommendation could discourage victims from coming forward, and some suggest holding those charged for a longer time period.

Consumer Confidence Reaches 6-Year High

U.S. consumers are more confident about the economy than they have been in more than six years.

The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 85.2 this month from a revised 82.2 in May, the private research group said Tuesday. The June figure is the highest since January 2008, a month after the Great Recession officially began.

More Americans are optimistic about business conditions and the outlook for jobs, though fewer expect their incomes will grow over the next six months.

“Still, the momentum going forward remains quite positive,” Lynn Franco, a Conference Board economist, said.

The index compiled by the Conference Board shows that confidence has been rising steadily since bottoming at 25.3 in February 2009. It’s well above last year’s average of 72.3. But it still hasn’t returned to full health. Before the recession, the index usually topped 90.

Consumers’ attitudes are closely watched because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Consumers registered the most favorable assessment of current business conditions since March 2008, and their outlook for the next months rose to highest level since August 2013. The percentage saying jobs are “plentiful” was 14.7 percent, highest since May 2008.

An improving job market has brightened Americans’ outlook.

The U.S. economy generated more than 200,000 jobs in May for the fourth straight month – the longest such streak since 1999. The unemployment rate has tumbled to 6.3 percent in May from 7.5 percent a year earlier.

Obsidian Partners For Digital Usage Survey

Obsidian Public Relations has again partnered with Research Dynamics Inc. to conduct its 2014 Mid-South Digital Engagement Survey, which will be available at digitalmidsouth.com from Monday, June 23, to July 11.

The 28-question survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete and seeks to provide insight into online usage, digital engagement and digital marketing. To be eligible, participants must live in a Mid-South county and use social media, apps or websites. One participant will win a Downtown Memphis weekend getaway package.

The survey will measure frequency of online use; computer, smartphone and tablet ownership and usage; and most-used social media sites. Questions also will address app usage, digital marketing and use of social media platforms. Survey participants will get the chance to identify which news sources they follow digitally, including picking their favorite news outlet and news professional to follow.

Home Prices Rise At Slower Pace

U.S. home prices rose in April from a year ago at the slowest pace in 13 months, reflecting a recent drop-off in sales.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 10.8 percent in April from 12 months earlier. That’s a healthy gain, but down from 12.4 percent in the previous month and the smallest since March 2013.

Annual price gains slowed in 19 of the 20 cities. Only Boston saw price increases accelerate.

Home sales have slowed since last summer as higher mortgage rates and rising prices and have made it harder for would-be buyers to afford a home. Sales of existing homes in May were 5 percent lower than 12 months earlier.

Prices rose 1.1 percent in April compared with March, though that gain likely reflected seasonal patterns. Home prices typically rise during the spring buying season.

Some of the hottest housing markets in the past two years are starting to cool off. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco reported annual price gains above 30 percent last year, according to Case-Shiller. In April, their price increases were all below 20 percent.

University of Memphis Plans New Recreation Center

The University of Memphis Student Government Association has approved a fee increase to fund construction of a new student recreation and fitness center.

The 192,500-square-foot center will be along Southern Avenue north of the existing center. Construction will be done in three phases, with the center scheduled to open in 2018. The $62 million center will be funded by a student fee increase of $307 for the 2014-2015 school year.

The facility will feature a main four-court divisible gym, six racquetball courts, a multipurpose fitness center with a climbing wall, a natatorium with recreational pool and lane pool, an outdoor leisure pool, lockers, classrooms and training rooms. There also will be a two-court gym, a quarter-mile indoor track, a wellness and nutrition area, juice bar, offices and large group exercise areas.

Outdoors there will three full-size turf fields, basketball courts and tennis courts. A land bridge will make the center accessible from the northern part of the campus.

A university official said the new center would help improve the health of students while deepening the connectivity between students and the campus.

“Students who feel a sense of belonging on the campus are more likely to stay through graduation,” Dr. Rosie Phillips Bingham, vice president for student affairs at the U of M, said in a statement. “Our students like that sense of connection; they like using the rec center and they wanted a center that was up-to-date and provides more room for the growing numbers of students who use the facility. I believe they will be very pleased with the new, modern recreation center.”

Civil Rights Museum Wins Verizon Grant

The Verizon Foundation is awarding the National Civil Rights Museum a $15,000 grant to support a virtual education program build around the museum’s exhibit on lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s.

The eLearning Lunch Counter Sit-In program teaches about the sit-ins as a form of nonviolent direct action used by college students across the country to end racial segregation.

The exhibit – complete with a mock lunch counter and films of the protestors training for the protests and the violent reaction they encountered – has been part of the museum since it opened in 1991.

During the museum’s recent renovation, the sit-in exhibit was expanded to include more information about the protests, the questions they raised about American society at the time and the questions they raise about current conditions.

Existing-Home Sales Up 4.9 Percent in May

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes posted the best monthly gain in nearly three years in May, providing hope that housing is beginning to regain momentum lost over the past year.

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that sales of existing homes increased 4.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million homes. The monthly gain was the fastest since August 2011, but even with the increase, sales are still 5 percent below the pace in May 2013.

“Sales appear to be moving up again, although the increase to date – over two months – reverses just a fraction of earlier weakening,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a research note.

Sales had been dampened by last year’s rise in mortgage rates from historic lows and various other factors including tight supplies and tougher lending standards.

The median price of a home sold in May was $213,400, up 5.1 percent from a year ago.

After hitting a recent peak of 5.33 million sales at an annual rate last summer, sales started sliding. Potential buyers have been grappling with a limited supply of houses, more expensive homes and lending standards which have been tightened in response to the housing boom of the past decade which resulted in millions of houses going into foreclosure.

The pace of home sales is below the 5.1 million homes sold in 2013 and off the pace of 5.5 million annual sales that would be consistent with a healthy housing market.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 43 12,074
MORTGAGES 0 78 15,834
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 39 39 3,168
BUILDING PERMITS 292 292 29,124
BANKRUPTCIES 3 100 11,771
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 18 4,292
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 190 17,922
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 43 3,711

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